Regardless of what Donald Trump has done or said, his “core” remains loyal. Through off-color tweets and a mixed-bag of agenda decisions and policies, the President’s popularity has remained relatively stable.
Some, particularly those in urban media centers, would likely posit that Trump’s base of constituents are the under informed, ride-or-die supporters who care little to pay attention to his policies. They have hitched their trailer to the Trump train and have no intention of disembarking. This explanation is simple and inaccurate in its conclusion.
Some have also reported that Trump’s approval rating has hit a new low. While this is partially true, it must be considered that few presidents have experienced approximately half of the nation’s disapproval before even assuming office, a reality that has kept Trump’s rating artificially suppressed.
It’s true that his current rating, which hovers around 40 percent, is not representative of unified national support for the POTUS. However, the relative stability in his rating since he took office, when his favorability was approximately 43.9 percent, means that his base has wavered little in their support since electing him president.
This interactive chart illustrates this point: Donald Trump supporters, overall, have not seen anything from the president that has caused their trust in him to waver significantly. Comparatively, Barack Obama’s approval rating in July of his first term showed a drastic drop-off from January. Owing largely to overwhelming Democratic support as well as some optimism among independents and certain Republicans, Obama began his term with approximately 66 percent approval. However, by mid-July, that number had dropped to the mid-50s, as some moderates and nearly all conservatives had come to view Obama as the true liberal he ultimately proved to be.
The interactive chart for Obama’s approval rating can be seen here.
There is one primary reason for Trump’s relatively static approval rating: he has a diverse base of constituents. Obama’s eggs were proven to be fully in the far-left basket, and as this became more apparent, those who tended to lean rightward or moderate began to disapprove of his decisions.
Trump, meanwhile, has been shown to have a far more diverse group of supporters than Obama. While it is impossible to satiate each group completely, it is apparent that the president has done enough to appease each group enough, the reason for his relatively stable support.
Because Trump will likely never win the support of many, if any, Democrats, an approval rating in the 40s is to be expected, and is not a determinant of how his base feels about his decisions. The fluctuation of that number is noteworthy, however, as it represents the feelings of Trump voters, a bloc that represents a Venn-diagram of concerns and agendas.
Findings by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group shows that Trump voters are far from carbon copies, agreeing on certain issues while holding vastly different stances on others:
“Trump supporters in the general election hold sharply different views from one another on matters of economics, the role of government, and identity issues. The Republican Party challenge is how to maintain unity in the face of sharp disagreement among its many factions.”
Another report from the Cato Institute broke the voting bloc down further into five groups by their collective political ideologies, values, and concerns.
These groups, in order of size, are:
1) Staunch conservatives
The largest of the Trump voting base, accounting for 31 percent of Trump voters, is defined by pro-life views on abortion, belief in limited government, negative views toward Islam, and wariness of pro-immigrant views and policies. This group, embodying traditional conservative values, was divided between Trump and Ted Cruz in the primary stage.
2) Free Marketeers
Comprising 21 percent of the Trump vote, free marketeers most value tax cuts, limited regulation and government, and free trade. This group tended to be the most critical of Trump, and were less hostile to immigrant and minority groups than their Trump-voting counterparts. Their primary concerns are economic, yet they were distinct in their tendency to vote for a third-party candidate in the primary, and many explained voting for Trump merely as opposition to Hillary Clinton.
3) American Preservationists
Perhaps the most fervent supporters of Donald Trump, 90 percent of American preservationists who voted in the primary voted for Trump. Interestingly, they were the group least likely to have voted Republican in the past, 13 percent saying they were registered as Democrats and were most likely to have voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Think blue-collar union groups. They tend to be against immigration, don’t view minority populations favorably, are strongly nationalistic, yet support liberal spending and entitlements. This group composed approximately 20 percent of Trump voters.
19 percent of the Trump constituency, this group is largely defined by values which are similar to American preservationists. Anti-elites are less intense in their nationalistic and anti-immigration beliefs, as well as having more favorable views toward minority groups. Anti-elites tended to see their identity as Americans as less tied to race than American preservationists, yet also share favorable views toward liberal economic spending.
5) The Disengaged
The smallest group within the 5-sector Trump voting base, the disengaged were defined only by their distrust of pro-immigration views and policies. Otherwise, they tended not to be clear in their stances on major issues. They make up 5 percent of the Trump voting bloc.
As these five separate, definable groups indicate, the Trump electorate is far from a monolith. Certain actions by the President, beginning construction on the border wall, for example, would greatly please American preservationists, while his decision to implement conservative tax policies may not. Any given decision by the president is likely to coincide more or less with a given group’s values.
The key to maintaining the stability of approval is not to appease one group significantly more than the others. Except for the disengaged, it is clear what each group values most. As is the case in any large nation with a heterogeneous population, both in terms of beliefs and ethnicity, no one group will be completely satisfied. In the case of these five sectors of Trump voters, no one group can go completely ignored or disproportionately favored, for that is when Trump’s relatively stable support would begin to erode.